Next up: high school
Incoming freshmen are excited but apprehensive
For recent eighth-grade graduates, this summer is not just for traveling, seeing friends, and relaxing. It is also for anticipating their upcoming high school experience.
While some students look forward to meeting new friends and participating in high school sports teams and clubs, others are more interested in embarking upon a highly challenging academic curriculum. Some students moving on to high school feel confident that they are socially and emotionally prepared, but for other students it is the complete opposite as they worry about how the next four years will play out for them.
Whether students entering high school are excited for it or not, they all have expectations and many even have goals that will motivate them to succeed in high school. Apprehensions about high school may scare some students, but luckily they have their whole summer to prepare for their new high school experience. It is hard for students to not wonder this summer about what going to high school will be like, considering that they hear so many different rumors and stories.
Kat Zhao, a recent eighth-grade graduate from Pleasanton Middle School, expects that high school will be challenging and that she will be exposed to new encounters. She also is eager to make new friends and join school clubs.
Another incoming ninth-grader is Chloe Smith, who attended Hart Middle School and will be a student at Amador Valley High. She is also looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
Chloe said she knows that the transition from middle to high school will be difficult in the beginning but will definitely become easier once she becomes accustomed to the changes, particularly the greater number of students and the size of the school.
Chloe says her eighth-grade teachers gave her important advice : "to plan ahead with school assignments, so that she'll stay organized and won't create stressful situations for herself by being unprepared." Chloe said she is taking this advice to heart.
While incoming freshmen are receiving advice from just about everyone, possibly the most important advice comes from recent high school graduates who experienced entering high school themselves not so long ago.
Melissa Bonnel, who graduated from Foothill High in 2008 and currently attends San Jose State University while working at Pleasanton's Valley Humane Society, says that the most important advice she can give is to "be yourself."
As obvious as this may sound, Melissa believes it is important because her own high school experience would have been much better had someone stressed this to her beforehand. Melissa remembers simply trying to fit in throughout high school and conform to others' expectations of "normal."
Though she describes her high school experience as being "good," she encourages incoming ninth-graders to be comfortable just being themselves because they will have a much better time that way.
"In high school you try to be this perfect, pretty, skinny person that high school wants you to be, but in college you can just be who you want to be, which feels good," she said.
She thinks that in high school many people lose themselves by becoming carried away with fitting in, but in college they can finally find their own identity again.
Sarah Lewis, who also graduated from Foothill High School in 2008 and now attends Brown University, does not recall receiving any good advice before she entered high school, and she was the oldest child in her family so she had no one whose example she could learn from.
She agrees with Melissa that important advice would have been to be herself and to put most of her effort into academics. Having now completed high school, she has other advice to offer, too.
First, she believes high-schoolers who are often insecure about their capabilities should begin their many new endeavors with.
Also she believes that maintaining a sense of perspective on each situation is important because it is easy to become mired in activities that you do not care for but feel a need to participate in because of friends and classmates.
If you're content with doing what everyone else is doing, that's great, Sarah says, but most people would have a better time if they were being true to themselves rather than succumbing to peer pressure.
Instead, she says, it is best to use high school as a tool to learn about your own interests so you can identify who you actually want to be and where you want to end up in life.
"There are so many people and places to choose from!" she said.
Sarah says she gives this advice because she wishes in high school she had just been herself.
"I came to college and was finally surrounded by oodles of other nerds, and wish that I had just embraced the Magic Card playing and the Dungeons and Dragons excursions in high school instead of being worried that those weren't cool pursuits," she said, "because they are buckets of fun, and I probably would have made some enjoyable connections with those classmates that I instead overlooked."
"Whoever you are, there is someone else who shares your concept of fun, be it raging parties or Monopoly tournaments. Embrace all of your choices as your own, and don't be afraid to go after what you want," she added.
In short, the lesson Sarah passes along is to remember to do what you love. Additionally, Sarah recommends to incoming freshmen that they think outside the norm because anything can be done.
"The world is full of cool things," she said. "No reason to wait until you are out of the house to learn about them."
Her last piece of advice is: "Good luck, have fun, ditch the 'shoulds,' embrace exploration, and have a great next four years!"
Many teachers encourage their eighth-grade students to get excited about high school and also offered their own personal advice for the future beyond high school. At Pleasanton Middle School, eighth-grade language arts teacher Kathy Nichols handed out a copy of a speech by Mary Schmich entitled, "Everybody's Free."
This speech not only gives advice for high school but also dispenses common sense advice for life, including, "Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life," and "Don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either." Nichols thinks that the speech is meaningful plus easy for everyone to understand and appreciate.
Many times students think of their high school years as being amusing, confusing, overwhelming and just plain crazy -- it will be interesting for those who are new to see what will happen during their high school years.
Hopefully, this year's freshmen who are graduating in 2015 will be able to derive something insightful from their high school experience and have some wise advice of their own to offer in four short years.
--Katie Lyness is a youth correspondent for the Pleasanton Weekly. She just completed the eighth grade at Pleasanton Middle School and will attend Amador Valley High.